There are many ways to look at the Phillies season in all its forms – the struggles, the failures, the incompetence at fundamentals. It is a far cry from where the Phillies were when Charlie Manuel was at the helm.
Manuel’s tenure as Phillies manager ended on Aug. 16, 2013. Almost exactly a year later, Manuel was enshrined as part of the Phillies Wall of Fame.
“I never would look for awards,” Manuel said, “but if somebody wanted to give me something I’ll take it.”
Awards and accolades follow success. The winningest manager in Phillies history was going to take his place on that wall sooner or later. It was fitting to have it happen now, while the players he once managed continue to move closer to the end of their careers.
Perhaps the reason that Wall of Fame night had more meaning than usual was because of all the subliminal signs and messages surrounding the night.
Charlie Manuel was a figure of success, a leader, a champion. He was everything to the Phillies glory years. So were his players when they were in his prime.
As Manuel entered the field, he was greeted by a long line of friends and colleagues from his time with the Phillies. The first one there was David Montgomery.
After Montgomery, there was Pat Gillick, the general manager and architect of the 2008 World Champions. Gillick was emotional, as the memories flooded in.
The next person to greet Manuel: current GM Ruben Amaro Jr. Boos rose from the crowd at the sight of Amaro on the scoreboard.
Manuel talked about the fans to close his speech. He focused on the winning times, when the Phillies were the talk of the city. He couldn’t have been more on point.
“You were our energy,” Manuel said. “You never let us down. You’ve been the greatest. I love everything about you.”
There were 39,153 fans on hand in the ballpark and plenty more at home watching the ceremony honoring the greatest manager in Phillies history. The energy was there for the ceremony. Once again, it was a masterful one by the Phillies organization.
Speaking of energy, if the Phillies put half as much energy into organizing the team as they did in this ceremony, Manuel might not be on the wall as a piece of the past and still winning games in the present. Manuel was essentially the mercy killing for the team’s failures of 2013. That move has yet to be made for the team that is on pace to be worse than the 73-89 Phillies in 2013.
Manuel understands. There are a lot of people, both in the organization and out, that don’t.
For a night, it was nice to see a piece of the past. Those days will be revisited many times through many players. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Cole Hamels. They will all retire sometime soon. Rollins, Utley and Howard – at the very least – also have a place on that wall eventually. And every time, we’ll remember the moments that defined the 2008 Phillies.
But it all really started with one man: Charlie Manuel. So it was fitting for him to take his immortal place in Phillies history first. And just like they did on that October night, his words rang true.
“Hey, this is for Philadelphia!”
Yes it was. And Saturday night was for Charlie, the send off as manager that he truly deserved.